The Great Cottonmouth-Catching Get-Rich-Quick Scheme of 1956
As a reptile-obsessed teen, I ran away to hunt lizards in the Everglades, then hatched a plan to milk venom from deadly snakes. It went even more comically wrong than you're thinking.
Like many adventures, it began with faulty research. Dried snake venom could bring upward of $400 an ounce, said a newspaper article.
For a 15-year-old in 1956, that was a princely sum, nearly $4,000 in today’s dollars.
In my tender teenage years, more than one get-rich-quick scheme shook their flashy lures and hooked me on their shiny, sharp barbs. Despite comic and cosmic serial failures, coupled with persistent pig-headedness, nothing kept me from seeking the next shortcut to wealth — least of all, learning from experiences. This one seemed a sure thing.
The mystique and power of serpents reared early for me — in grammar school. A classmate showed me where to catch harmless DeKay’s snakes underneath plywood, boards and other clutter in fields. Turning over a piece of debris, sometimes two to four of these docile brown guys lay tightly coiled side by side, rarely a foot long.